Magic Maze

8
A fun, casual game with unique time-based gameplay

You're adventurers about to embark on a dangerous journey. But first it's time to gear up! Raid the local high fantasy mini mall with your group -- there's only one catch. Each of you is responsible for a set of individual movement types, you can't talk, and there's a timer. Did I say one catch? It's more like a dozen. 

Magic Maze is a frenetic, tile-based game in which each player can only move pawns a certain direction. Player one can move north, player two can move south, player three can engage escalators, player four can use portals, and so forth. Pawns have to explore the map, discover their items, and then all make it to their own individual exits. But because players aren't allowed to talk for most of the game, players have to learn to anticipate each other's goals.

Though it sounds like complete chaos, it really isn't -- as long as there's a strategy. And it is a strategy game. Players have to balance the need to explore with the need to stay close to their resource tiles and timers, as certain tiles can only be explored by specific pawns. No one player "owns" any pawn; all players are moving them at the same time. And that can mean that players can be moving towards conflicting goals.

The initial tutorial level was frustrating -- and I nearly put down the game. Not because it was hard, but because it allowed talking -- and that makes it obvious why the actual game doesn't. Because it allowed talking, the entirety of the game just became one player shouting directives. "You move left. OK, you move down. OK, you move north. OK, you move south." It was completely mindless and dull.

But with the inclusion of complete silence everyone has to be alert and thinking. Not only do you need to develop strategy, but you also need to think about what the other person is thinking. Are they specifically leaving a pawn there because they want to trip a timer later?

And all-in-all it's still a relatively simple game for three to four players -- it only gets hectic once you start adding more. In fact, one of the major problems with the game is that once you get it down, it really isn't that difficult. There are numerous tutorial scenarios and 10 more difficult scenarios, but they all fly by pretty quickly once you have the mechanics figured out.